BACKGROUND: Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is characterized by profound and disabling fatigue with no known somatic explanation. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven to be a successful intervention leading to a reduction in fatigue and disability. Based on previous neuroimaging findings, it has been suggested that central neural mechanisms may underlie CFS symptoms and play a role in the change brought on by CBT. In this randomized controlled trial we aim to further investigate the neural mechanisms that underlie fatigue in CFS and their change by CBT.
METHODS/DESIGN: We will conduct a randomized controlled trial in which we collect anatomical and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures from female CFS patients before and after CBT (N = 60) or waiting list (N = 30) and compare these with measures from age and education matched healthy controls (N = 30). By including a large treatment group we will also be able to compare patients that benefit from CBT with those that do not. In addition, to further investigate the role of endocrine and immune biomarkers in CFS, we will determine cortisol and cytokine concentrations in blood, hair and/or saliva.
DISCUSSION: This project creates an unique opportunity to enhance our understanding of CFS symptoms and its change by CBT in terms of neuroanatomical, neurofunctional, endocrinological and immunological mechanisms and can help to further improve future treatments strategies.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: Dutch Trial Register #15852. Registered 9 December 2013 ( http://www.trialregister.nl/trialreg/admin/rctview.asp?TC=4311 ).